Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Monday, May 28, 2007

My Car, My Hassles (Part 4)

So where were we?

In last week's post the car was brought to Ontario and I am now in possession of it. I have a 30 day Nova Scotian trip permit allowing me to drive around. I have yet to register my car in Ontario. I found out that in order to get my Nova Scotian tax back, I have to apply to the CRA. This could take upwards of two months. They want my original Bill of Sale.

Edgar and Milo have something in common: they're both dead. And, for a change, instead of Chloe downloading schematics to Jack, Morris downloaded some schematics to Chloe.

So I'm ready to go and register my car with the MTO. So one day I leave work and head straight there. I take my number and wait. When I'm called up I explain the situation. The worker looks at my driver's licence, bill of sale, and all other pertinent documentation. She notices my birthday is coming up in a couple of months and asks if I'd like to renew my plates so they won't have to be renewed until next year.

Sure, why not?

Then she notices my driver's licence expires soon and asks if I'd like to renew that while I'm there.

Sure, why not?

The list of things I'm doing there, and therefore paying for, keeps piling up. But I might as well take care of it all in one shot. She takes my picture, gives me a temporary licence and tells me the real one will arrive in a few weeks. (Somehow, they can give you a photo licence in about 20 minutes in Nova Scotia, yet it takes Ontario weeks.)

She looks at my bill of sale, and tells me how much tax she'll be charging me. Fair enough. She gives me the final bill and I pay for it. She gives my plates, and even a couple of screw drivers so I can put the plates on my car. Then she informs me the trip permit given to me by the dealership was not valid outside of Nova Scotia. (Not what an earlier MTO employee told me.) But it doesn't matter now. I have the real plates. The car is registered and insured.

I head out to the car and put the rear plate on. In order to put the front plate on I had to first put a plate-holder onto the front of the car. The dealership gave me one of these plate-holders, including instructions on how to attach it. I read the instructions. "Put rivets here and here, and screw onto car there." I'm looking at the rivets and wondering how I get them to where they're supposed to be. I figure the Saturn dealership in Ottawa will know. So I call them.

"Oh, you'll need a rivet gun to attach the plate holder. Do you have a rivet gun?"


"Okay, come in tomorrow. We can do that for you."

So now I have to drive around without a front licence plate on. I wonder if I'll get pulled over? Why couldn't Saturn in Nova Scotia have done this, knowing I'd be out of province? Why couldn't the instructions have mentioned the need for a rivet gun?

The next day I start filling out the form to get my Nova Scotian tax refunded. But something odd is happening. None of the numbers are working out. There is no number on the bill of sale which when multiplied by 14% gives the amount of tax I paid in Nova Scotia. I'm very confused. I call Saturn in Nova Scotia and ask them to help me understand the bill of sale. It would figure that the person I needed to talk to is off sick, and it's Friday. But the person I did talk to was able to help me.

Here is the problem. The numbers on the Bill of Sale are out of order. The order they're listed is not the order in which they're calculated.

This is the order they're listed:
  1. Price of car

  2. Sales tax

  3. License or Transfer fee

  4. Extended Warranty

  5. Tire Environmental Fee

  6. Balance Due (Whatever that means.

  7. Balance Forward (I figure this and the Balance Due is because the Balance Due is the last thing in that column, and the Balance Forward is the first in the next column. It's the same number.)

  8. Less deposit

  9. Balance Owing

  10. Admin Fee

  11. Tire Warranty

  12. Total Financed (AKA: Final price. That which I owe them.)

This is the order in which they're calculated:
  1. Cost of the car

  2. Extended Warranty

  3. Tire Environmental Fee

  4. Admin Fee

  5. Tire Waranty

Take all those things, add them up, and that gives a non-taxed price of the car. Then add the 14% tax on that number. And then add the License or Transfer Fee. Subtract the deposit, then you have the "Total Financed" cost, that which I owe them.

You may have noticed things were a little out of order. See, first they calculated tax, then added the "License or Transfer Fee", but when they listed it on the Bill of Sale they listed the tax second! They listed the "License or Transfer Fee" third.

As a result it's very confusing. The actual cost of the car on which the tax is calculated is not shown anywhere on the Bill of Sale. No wonder the person at the MTO was confused. I still am. (I was hoping she would know better, what with it being her job and all to do that sort of thing.)

So the next day as I was trying to figure out how much tax to get back from Nova Scotia, and comparing it to the tax I paid in Ontario I noticed something was wrong. The tax I paid in Ontario was calculated on the cost of the car plus the Nova Scotian tax. I was paying tax on tax. Worse! I was paying tax on tax that I was going to be getting back!

So I call the MTO. They tell me that once they collect the tax it's out of their hands and to get a refund I need to talk to the Ontario Ministry of Finance. So I call them. They point me towards a form to fill out and send in. Oh yes, and they will need my Bill of Sale.

"@#$@! Will you need the original?"

"No. A copy will do. Why would we need the original?"

"The CRA wanted the original so someone couldn't try to use the same receipt to get a refund multiple times on the same purchase."

"Yeah, but a fake would be easy to make."

"You should work for the CRA."

So then later on in the week I receive a letter from the Ontario Ministry of Finance making sure I was being honest and paying all the taxes I needed to. For some reason I laugh. I find this somehow ironic. I'm not sure how. Maybe it's because they owe me?

Anyway, this brings us to the end of the car stories, I hope. I have yet to receive any refunds, but it's still early. If anything else goes wrong I'm sure I'll write all about it here.

UPDATE: Something did go wrong. I wrote all about it in My Car, My Hassles (Part 5).

Friday, May 25, 2007

We're Being A-Salted!

According to Today's Article we could significantly cut back on heart disease if we cut our salt intake in half.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I'm An Artist Too (18)

A ship in a coffee cup. The ship is called "C-Word", a bit of a pun I stole from Arrested Development.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Car, My Hassles (Part 3)

So, where were we?

The new car I bought is still in Nova Scotia. I am in Ontario. I am trying to register the car. I am not actually any farther along than I was in last week's episode due to the gross incompetence of certain government workers (with the one possible exception of buck-passing. That seems to be a core-competency. They're quite good at that.)

Edgar is still dead. Milo has a hole in his head.

I had been sent through various levels of the MTO, then to The Ontario Ministry of Finance, then to the Nova Scotia Department of Finance and back to the MTO in a futile attempt to get my Nova Scotia tax money back.

On my second call to the Registry in Ontario I was told to call the Ministry of Finance. At this point my blood started to boil. I told them "I already called them. They sent me to the Nova Scotia Department of Finance, who told me to call you. They told me if I bought a car in Ontario and registered in in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia could get the tax from Ontario without me having to do anything. They suspected, as do I, that it wouldn't be any different to do things in reverse. I mean, why would it only work one way? Why would Nova Scotia work out that deal with Ontario, only to have Ontario not work out a similar deal with Nova Scotia?"

"I don't know anything about that. You'll have to talk to the Ontario Ministry of Finance about that."


So, I check the interweb. Somewhere on the MTO website there was something about calling the CRA. So I called them. Getting hold of them was a task in and of itself. The number I was calling was busy. Usually call centers don't give busy signals, they answer and put you in a queue. So this made me wonder if I was calling the right number. I called around different CRA numbers until I finally got someone working in the Child Benefit program. I was given a different number to call, which I did, then got transfered elsewhere. The person I got talked to had to pass me to her supervisor, so was able to help. He sent me to an online form that I had to print out and send to Charlottetown, PEI with my original Bill of Sale, not a copy, with no guarantee of them returning it. But I needed the Bill of Sale to register the car.

I asked her why a copy would not do. She said that way people wouldn't keep sending in copies to get tax returns for the same purchases. I asked why they didn't keep track of purchases somehow, like with cars, a VIN? Receipts are easy enough to fake with today's technology, surely they could think of a better way to prevent fraud than to make people give up original receipts. I suggested that policy be changed. She told me to write my local MP as the policy was written into law.

It then occurred to me that a problem with doing business with governments is that policies are often times written into law, so they have to followed, even when they make no sense. At least, in the private sector if a policy doesn't make sense, exceptions can be made.

(If I were prime minister, the first law I would try to have passed is that no policy or law would be enforceable unless the reasons for that policy or law were readily available.)

So, I didn't fill out the form right away for two reasons. First, I would do that when I was sure I wouldn't need the Bill of Sale anymore (after I registered the car) and second, the printer wasn't working.

In the meantime I had gotten the car insured, and my dad had driven the car up to Ontario for me, and I gave him his car back. I had been told by the MTO head office that the trip permit given to me by the dealership in Nova Scotia would be legal, so I didn't bother getting an Ontario Trip permit.

And, again I see this post is getting too long, so I'll have leave you hanging here. So join me next week, same car day, same car blog.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Changing 'Face' Of The Net

Recently the Ontario government banned it's employees from using Facebook at work. You're first reaction is probably that of "Of course. Why would government workers need to go on Facebook at work?" Unless you work for the Ontario provincial government, in which case you're initial reaction is probably "Awwwww, nuts!"

Law professor, Michael Geist, has a different take. In Today's Article he argues that banning Facebook at work for provincial bureaucrats puts them even further out of touch with the Ontario public.

My reaction, as you may have guessed from my car rantings, is along the lines of "Government workers out of touch? Really? Surely, you jest! This cannot be!"

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'm An Artist Too (17)

A grand piano or anvil falling on a person is so cliché. This is the opposite. This is a person falling on a grand piano and an anvil. Although, it doesn't really look like an anvil. Use your imagination.

Monday, May 14, 2007

My Car, My Hassles (Part 2)

So, where we we?

I bought the car in Nova Scotia. The car is in Nova Scotia. I am in Ontario. The car is uninsured, and unregistered. Edgar is still dead, and now Milo is too.

Recall from last week's post that I had bought a brand new car in Nova Scotia and needed to register it in Ontario.

When I bought the car in Nova Scotia I had to, of course, pay the Nova Scotian RST. Nova Scotia tax works a little differently than Ontario tax. In Ontario you see the price of a product, and then you add 6% GST and add 8% PST that's added on. Both percentages are calculated on the list price, so you're not paying tax on the tax. So you pay a total of 14% tax.

In Nova Scotia there's only one tax called the HST. The HST is a 14% tax charged on the list price. I'm not 100% sure, but I think all of that tax is collected by the CRA. They, then, break it down into 6% GST and 8% PST and give that back to the Nova Scotia Department of Finance.

When you register a new car in a province other than where you bought it, you must pay the RST in the province where you're registering. So, having already paid the Nova Scotian tax, I now have to pay the Ontario tax. On a brand new car, that's not a small amount.

When I bought the car I was told by the dealership that Ontario and Nova Scotia probably had something worked out where I wouldn't have to recover the taxes myself, but the governments could work it out for themselves.

So I went on a mission to call the MTO to get the information I needed. I needed to know what I needed to do to get my car registered;

  1. Would I need an emissions test?

  2. Would the car need to be safetied?

  3. What documents would I need to register the car?

  4. How can I recover the Nova Scotian Tax?

  5. Do I register a car before I insure it, or the other way around?

  6. Also, when I bought the car, the dealership gave me a temporary permit until I could register the car. It was good for 30 days. Would I need to get another trip permit from Ontario, or would the dealership's permit be good enough?

I went to the MTO website to find their number. There wasn't one single number. I could either call a private registration office, a regional office, or the head office. I called them in that order.

The private registration office in Embrun was useless. First, I was greeted with a French computer telling me what buttons to push for what options. Funny. I thought Ontario was an officially English province and I should have been greeted with English first, with the option to switch to French. Not t'other way around. Anyway...

When I finally got to a MTO employee I asked my questions. She told me I would not need an emissions test, but I would need the car to be safetied. I thought this sounded wrong, because it was a brand new car. There were 4 km on it! And it had just passed the Nova Scotian safety inspection. She told me she didn't know about Nova Scotian tax, but she couldn't do anything for me, except that she had to collect the Ontarian tax. I didn't get any further with her because she was a front-line worker, not a telephone answerer and she put me on hold. So I hung up and called the regional office.

The person working at the regional office told me I would not need an emissions test, but I might need a safety inspection for the car, and I should call the head office to find out. So I called the head office.

They told me the car would not need a safety inspection because it was brand new. I told her what I was told by the Registry, and she gave me her name and told me to tell them to call her if they wanted me to get the car safetied. Okay. Good. but how do I get my Nova Scotia tax money back? She told me that I would have to contact the Ontario Ministry of Finance.

So I called the Ministry of Finance and they told me that they had nothing to do with that. They only collected the Ontario tax, and I would need to contact the Nova Scotia Department of Finance.

The Nova Scotia Department of Finance said "if someone were to buy a new car in Ontario and paid PST there and then came to Nova Scotia to register it here, he would NOT have to pay PST here when he registered it. Nova Scotia would recover the PST from Ontario through its own ways." They went on to say that they couldn't be sure, but they suspected it was the same in Ontario, only reversed.

They asked who I had spoken with, and I told them the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. They said "don't talk to them but to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. He says the front line people will know." I guess he doesn't know the Registry is part of the Ministry of Transportation.

So, anyway, he was telling me to call a front line worker with the MTO which, if you recall, was the first place I called.

I had just come full circle.

Well, I can see this blog entry is long enough. So, I will have to pause here and leave you hungering for more. So join me next week, same car day, same car blog.

Friday, May 11, 2007

All Your Base Are Belong to U.S.

According to Today's Article this guy, who has never been in the U.S. until now, was extradited from Australia to the U.S. for violating U.S. law while in Australia.

So, watch out. If you speed, and get caught, you may have to pay the speeding ticket for your jurisdiction, as well as somewhere in the U.S.

And, here, I was hoping to avoid the ridiculous U.S. legal system by not living there. I guess it doesn't work like that.

Monday, May 07, 2007

My Car, My Hassles (Part 1)

As many of you know, I recently bought a car. I will now begin out outline exactly how big of a pain this process has become.

As with everything in my life, it turns out to be a long story, so I will have to tell the story over multiple posts. I will try to make each post as exciting as an episode of 24!

Here's the situation. I'm an Ontario resident, but I am from Nova Scotia. My family is from Nova Scotia. I got my driver's licence in Nova Scotia when I was 16, and have been on my parent's insurance, in Nova Scotia, since then. Then when I moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, I had my licence changed to an Ontarian Licence. But I stayed on my parent's insurance policy.

For the last year my dad had lent me his Saturn(s) until I got on my feet and could get my own car. I went home at Easter time when dad told me two things which translated into "You need to get a car soon!" The first thing he told me was that our insurance company wanted to know when I was moving back to Nova Scotia. My licence number on my parent's insurance policy was an Ontario driver's licence number. So, my dad told them "Well, he recently got a job in Ottawa, so he won't be moving back to Nova Scotia in the foreseeable future." So they removed me from the policy, saying that they would give me a letter of experience if I needed one for the next year saying I have been insured.

So here I am, uninsured. Plus, Dad was going to come up to Ottawa, take back the car he had lent me to help my sister move home from North Bay for the summer. So I was going to lose my car soon. I needed to buy a car, and get insured.

The thing about buying a Saturn is that Saturn wants the process of buying a car to be as pain-free as possible. There is no haggling. You pay what the sticker says. Low pressure. I like that.

Of course, I did have a high pressure sale. Not so much from the Saturn people, but from circumstances.

Saturn was offering $0 down, 0% financing on their new cars. And, Saturn of Dartmouth was having some sales the week I was home. Now, the $0 down, 0% financing offer ended on Tuesday, April 11. I was coming back to Ottawa on the 12th. So by the time I could come back to Ottawa and look for other vehicles, the sale would be over. We found this out on Sunday, the 10th. Everything is closed on Sundays in Nova Scotia. That left me Monday and Tuesday to test-drive and make a decision.

On Monday I went around test driving different vehicles. Saturn made me a good offer on their car, with their sales, etc. I knew it would be a bit of a pain to transfer the car to Ontario, plus I wouldn't be able to drive it off the lot if I bought in Nova Scotia. For one thing it wouldn't be ready by time time I left, and another thing, I had no car insurance! But I was saving a ton of dough by buying it there and then.

I wondered if Saturn in Ottawa could match, or better, the offer made to me by Saturn of Dartmouth. If they could I would have bought over the phone. So I called Saturn in Ottawa and started to explain the deal I was getting from Saturn of Dartmouth. The salesman interrupted me and said "Tell you what. This sounds complicated, so here's my email address. Write me an email and I'll let you know either later today, or first thing tomorrow (Tuesday) morning."

I wrote up the email and sent it off to him. I didn't hear back that day. The next morning I didn't get a reply. But I did have to go to my parent's insurance broker to deal with insurance issues and request a letter of experience. When I got home early that afternoon, the email still hadn't arrived. So I called Saturn in Ottawa back and got the guy I talked to the day before. He was having email troubles. He had sent me a reply, but I never got it. So he asked me to send mine again and he'd reply right away again. Unfortunately, he wasn't free to talk at that moment because he was in a meeting that would last until 4:00pm (5:00pm Nova Scotian time.) So I waited until 5:30 and still hadn't received a reply. So I called back. At 5:30, I had two and a half hours before Saturn of Dartmouth closed and the sweet deal was over. The man I had dealt with had left for the day. So I talked to the next available salesman. I requested an answer right away because I didn't have time for email hassles.

I explained the situation to him, and unfortunately Saturn in Ottawa couldn't match the sales. I was going to save lots of money by buying in Nova Scotia. Then, in three weeks when dad was going to fly to Ontario, instead he would drive my car and we would do a car swap. He would give me my car, and I would return his car to him.

I asked Saturn of Dartmouth about registration and tax issues. Saturn of Dartmouth didn't know for sure, but said when I registered the car in Ontario the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario would probably be able to recover the RST directly from the Nova Scotian government.

So I decided to buy the car in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. I got a blue 2007 Saturn Ion 2 midlevel. I bought the car at about 7:00-7:30 on the Tuesday night. Another 30 - 60 minutes, and the deal would have been over. While I wasn't able to drive the car off the lot, I did drive it around the lot. The next morning I got on a plane , flew back to Ottawa, and let the hassles begin, which I will get to next week.

Find out what happens in next week's exciting episode of "My Car, My Hassles". Same car day, same car blog.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Moral of The Article: Marry Someone French

Today's article tells of a survey that shows rates of infidelity in different nations. The French have the lowest rate (3.8% of married men and 2% of married women) with African nations having the highest rates, as high as 37% of people within the last year.

The American rates are a little higher than the French rates, but still lower than what I would have thought. I had heard before that as many as 30% of men had cheated on their wives. Perhaps couples filled out these surveys, causing fewer to admit their wrong-doings? Or, perhaps my memory fails me, or the other numbers I heard were from an inaccurate survey?